It usually takes Johannes Bocher two days to drive from the capital N’Djamena to Gogmi, an isolated village 236 miles east of the capital where he lives.
Home to around 6,000 people, the town of Gogmi is nestled amongst the rocky hills for which the Guera region of Chad is known. As the ground levels off, sandy yellow earth takes the place of steep green hillsides
At the foot of the hills is an airstrip.
Desperate for an airstrip!
‘Johannes Boucher called us in late 2015 excited that 'his' airstrip, which had become overgrown and populated with trees and ant hills, had now been cleared and leveled with all holes filled in!’, explains pilot Phil Henderson, who flew to Gogmi.
‘He was desperate to have us re-open the airstrip - motivated by many of the problems that Gogmi’s remote location has caused including a lack of access to basic healthcare.’
A great advocate for his adopted community, Johannes has been in Gogmi for 6 years, working with local pastors and teaching at a local primary school.
‘With over 25 different language groups in the one region, there is much need for dedicated people like Johannes to work alongside these people groups to protect their culture and language and ultimately to demonstrate the hope of Christ to them’ Phil continued.
‘I've been told that in the Guera you can have tribes living on different sides of the same hill who will speak completely different languages!’
Working hard for healthcare
‘It has been very hard to work on this airstrip over the last two years but the community really wanted this to be done’ said Johannes –adding, ‘this really means a lot to them’.
‘They are really hopeful that the medical doctors will come to the health clinic again if the airstrip is re-opened. And for me,’ he says, ‘it is such a reassurance to know that MAF will now be an option for me in case of a medical emergency. This place is really so far away from everything’.
The people speak fondly of the days when MAF used to fly to Gogmi and how their lives have been affected by its closure, explains Sam Baguma, MAF’s Country Director in Chad. Gogmi is one of several airstrips MAF opened in 1967 to support the work of missionaries working in the region. But the airstrip fell into disrepair over the years, and MAF stopped flying there in 1983. That was more than 30 years ago.
Reopening an old new airstrip
When they heard that the airstrip would finally be re-opened, the whole village turned up to celebrate!
The people who had worked so hard on the airstrip were overjoyed to see the fruit of their labour.
Amongst the honoured guests was the village chief, Halhadji Djibrine Sortho, who was only 3 years old when MAF first landed in Gogmi in 1967. It was Mr Sortho’s father, the village chief before him, who had first introduced MAF to Gogmi - and he vividly remembers the impact of those early MAF flights.
The community’s hard work was rewarded when a few weeks after the re-opening, pilot Andrew Mumford was able to fly a medical team to Gogmi. For two days, people came in from all corners of the village to receive medical treatment. Their local clinic was re-supplied with some vital medicines that were not normally stocked. For the first time in a very long time the people of Gogmi were saved the long and treacherous journey to the nearest medical centre - a full day’s walk each way.
‘It has been very hard to work on this airstrip over the last two years but the community really wanted this to be done’ Johannes Boucher